Author: Yuri Vasilyev
On 31st of August of 1997 Serie A season-opener for Inter was a home game against Brescia. Giuseppe Meazza was fully packed as fans came to see the debut of the rising Brazilian star that Inter has acquired for a record fee at that time (nowadays €28million) from Barcelona – Ronaldo, the Phenomenon. However, it turned out to be the show of another South American, as unsuspecting Interisti were introduced to Alvaro Recoba (nicknamed ‘El Chino’ because of his Asian roots).
Brescia opened the score by scoring in a goal in the middle of the second half and Nerazzurri manager Luigi Simoni was forced to make an offensive substitution as Alvaro Recoba came on. On the 79th minute, the Uruguayan scored a thunderous strike in the top right corner from way outside the box. Late in the stoppage time, Alvaro scored yet another beauty by converting brilliantly taken free-kick 35 meters away from the goal.
Despite such exceptional performance Luigi Simoni was still not convinced that Recoba is a player that belongs in starting eleven. In spite of his undeniable talent, he was lazy in training sessions and did not contribute much when the team had to defend. As a result, El Chino was sent on loan to Venezia.
During his spell with the club from Venice in the second half of 1998-1999 season, Alvaro was given creative freedom which resulted in 11 goals and 9 assists after 19 games played. After such prolific results, he returned to Inter where Marcello Lippi has taken charge. A trust from the new manager and a renewal of contract that made him highest-paid footballer in the world at that time, has provided Recoba with confidence that he so desperately needed. In the following 1999-2000 season El Chino started in 17 games and featured overall on 27 occasions having scored 10 and assisted 6 times.
Marcello Lippi left the club after just one year with the team and newly appointed manager Marco Tardelli preferred to have El Chino on the bench. Alvaro saw his playing time reduced. Luckily for Recoba his reign lasted only single year as Hector Cuper has taken his place.
Under Hector Cuper Inter managed to reach semi-finals of Champions League in the 2002-2003 season but lost to their arch-rival A.C.Milan on away goal difference. In the same season Nerazzurri also lost scudetto to fierce rivals Juventus after suffering defeat 4:2 to Lazio on the last day of the season.
Recoba has regularly played and contributed to team success under Argentine gaffer who managed the team from 2001 to 2004 managing. During Cuper’s spell at the club, Alvaro has played in 64 games, scored 23 goals and assisted 18 times. However, ultra-defensive Couper’s approach eventually led him to being sacked by Massimo Moratti.
After Corrado Verdelli and Alberto Zaccheroni have failed to impress Inter’s board as managers of the club, Nerazzurri have appointed Roberto Mancini in 2004. In the following 2004-2005 season, Inter finished 3rd in the league and won Coppa Italiana and in the season 2005-2006 season finished first in Serie A and successfully defended the title in 2006-2007 season.
By that time El Chino has become a firm bench player who would only play when key players get injured or when the manager needed an extra attacking player on the pitch but finally getting his hands on the trophy that eluded him for so many of his prime years is an achievement nonetheless.
Since leaving Inter in 2008 Recoba signed with Torino, later on with Panionios (Greece) and returned to finish his career in his home city club Nacional by signing contract with the team in July 2011. He started most of the matches for the Uruguyan team on the bench but would be often introduced as a substitute.
As a result, in 2011-2012 season he helped his team win Primera Division. In his last season with the club on 9th November of 2014, he scored his vintage free-kick goal versus fierce rival Athletico Penal late in the stoppage time that helped his team not only to win the derby but also the domestic league for the second time in his career.
El Chino had a natural pace that would rival a stallion among the Kentucky Derby contenders. He also had an ability that allowed him to dribble past defenders with ease, convert free kicks from tough angles and score bangers with his magical left foot that would send crowd into ecstasy. However, as with many talented players Recoba has never truly lived up to the expectations.
Injuries and his attitude are the main reasons why that happened. Nevertheless, every time when Alvaro would enter a game every football fan would expect something magical to happen and that is a sign of a genius.